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Residents less blue after meeting
New map removes areas of concern
Town hall 1
Landowners offer a show of hands in support a new draft of a partial update to Forsyth County's comprehensive plan Tuesday night at Liberty Middle School. - photo by Frank Reddy

More than 100 landowners gathered in a middle school cafeteria Tuesday to sound off on a map Forsyth County may use as a stepping stone for a full update to its comprehensive plan.

Several in the crowd were vocal about a section of the map blanketed in blue. The color represented areas, mostly of northwestern Forsyth, where the pace of development is or could become faster than the availability of community facilities and services, according to a 2007 county infrastructure survey.

The map is one piece of a partial update, or a bridge document, between the current comprehensive plan and a full update due to the state by February 2012.

The comprehensive plan serves as a guide for growth in the county.

Planning Director Jeff Chance presented a fresh draft of the map during the meeting at Liberty Middle School. The blue portion was removed in the newer version, based on community comments the department had received earlier.

The new map, Chance said, would include a narrative that "doesn't necessarily point out any one particular area in the county."

"We talk about the county as a whole," he said.

By a show of hands, most at the meeting thought that was a good idea.

Resident John Kieffer said the "blue designation is going to be used by the state in future considerations."

"Aren't we penalizing ourselves?" he asked. "It's one more hurdle that could cause Forsyth County to lose potential development."

Commissioner Patrick Bell spoke out against that designation at a Jan. 15 board meeting. The area on the map would make up nearly half his district, as well as spilling over into District 1.

Resident Jeff Heard said he thought the newer version of the map, which would be its fourth draft, was the better option. To Heard, who's lived all his life on the same property in District 4, the map would drive developers away.

"The way the economy is now," Heard said, "the county should be begging for developers ... this map sounds ludicrous to me."

The new version would need to be approved by the board of commissioners Feb. 5 to move on to the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The partial update adoption deadline is June 30.

Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said it was important for the county to "abide by DCA directives in order to maintain our status as a qualified local government."

Laughinghouse said that status enables the county to grant land disturbance and other permits for development.

"If DCA says to do it to maintain your qualified local government status, you do it," Laughinghouse said. "Now if you want to change what DCA does, you're talking to the wrong group of people here."

Chance said he would relay the message to all commissioners at their Feb. 5 meeting that "resoundingly, these folks liked the new map."